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Monday, 6 December 2004
Page: 114


Senator ALLISON (9:11 PM) —by leave—I move Democrat amendments (8) and (9) on sheet 4436 revised:

(8) Clause 30, page 30 (after line 11), at the end of the clause, add:

(6) The Minister must not authorise payment to a State under this Act for a non-government school if the school charges school fees for a level of education, the amount of which exceeds the amount of the AGSRC for that year for the same level of education.

(7) For the purpose of subsection (6), a school fee is the fee payable to a non-government school by a person enrolled with, or applying for enrolment with, the school, to provide education at that school for one year.

(9) Clause 30, page 30 (after line 11), at the end of the clause, add:

(8) The Minister must not authorise payment to a State under this Act for a non-government school if:

(a) the school was added to the list of non-government schools within the last 2 years; and

(b) the school has not been approved by the State or Territory Government where it is located.

These amendments would mean that the minister would not make payments for non-government schools if that school charges school fees for a level of education, the amount of which exceeds the AGSRC for that year for the same level of education. In other words, a school that can charge fees at or above the AGSRC would not receive government funding. As I mentioned in my speech in the second reading debate, Louise Watson's report found 27 per cent of private students, in a survey of 1,000 private schools, attend schools where the income from tuition fees alone exceeds the average resources per student in government schools. We would argue that it is very difficult for government schools to compete with non-government schools that have resource levels far above their own. We do not believe it is the role of the federal government to be funding schools operating with such high levels of resources.

In our view, public funding ought to go to the schools that need it in an educational sense. This is a fairly simple way of determining how funding should be provided. No doubt the minister will say that all those parents pay taxes and should be entitled to government subsidies. No doubt there will also be the arguments about struggling parents. But we would argue that schools that have, just by virtue of fees alone, that sort of income are bound to also have other levels of income, which puts the amount of money available to those schools to spend on the education of the children at those schools way above that which is available to other schools. At the end of the day, our funding principles for schooling should seek to provide equal opportunities for students. The best way to do that is to minimise the enormous differences in resources that are available to schools.